The White House and Republican leaders in Congress reached a big agreement Monday to extend the expiring income tax cuts for two years (meaning this will be debated once again in 2012), while extending unemployment benefits and cut how much millions of workers pay in Social Security payroll taxes.
Most disturbing to Democrats is on the estate tax (or "death tax" as Frank Luntz successfully threw into the lexicon years ago), where there will now be an exemption up to $5 million for individuals and $10 million for couples, with the tax rate at 35%. This will be in effect for two years. But when Montana's Max Baucus proposed a permanent estate tax rate of 45% and an exemption of $3.5 million for individuals and $7 million for couples, he couldn't get the 60 votes required to pass it recently.
Not only are Democrats throughout the country upset, but some of those sit in the House of Representatives. According to a story published on CNN.com,
"We won't rubber stamp a deal between the White House and (Senate Minority Leader) Mitch McConnell," one Democratic congressional source said. "We want to make it clear. Don't take our support for grant."
And then there's this from one liberal in the Senate:
"I'm not at all happy with this. I want to see all the details before I make some kind of commitment," Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio said.
Asked if President Barack Obama "caved" to Republicans, Brown said: "I don't know if he caved. I think he could have gotten a better agreement."
But could he have? With the deadline for all of the Bush-era tax cuts scheduled to expire at the end of this month, the President was determined to keep the tax cuts for couples making less than $250,000 and individuals less than $200,000. Votes taken on Saturday showed that there weren't enough voted in the Senate (that will become much less Democratic in three weeks) to re-instate the previous tax rates for those over $250,000 right now, nor were they there to raise taxes for those making more than a million dollars.
One reason why liberals are so upset and think that President Obama was feckless in his negotiations was that public opinion polling showed that most Americans wanted tax cuts to the rich to end, and therefore it was worth the fight. Some felt it would be okay for all of the tax cuts to expire, because negotiations would begin again in January, and any tax increase could retroactively be rescinded.
Now people like Norman Soloman are being quoted in the New York Times as saying that it's now time to have a serious challenger in the Democratic primaries in 2012:
Obama may have just ensured that hell face a significant challenge to his renomination in 2012 from inside the Democratic Party said Norman Solomon, a leader of Progressive Democrats of America. By giving away the store on such a momentous tax issue, he has now done huge damage to a large portion of the progressive base that helped to make him president.
Mr. Solomon added, If he thinks that wont have major effects on his re-election chances, he's been swallowed up by a delusional bubble."
It should also be noted that included in the deal is a reduction in the Social Security payroll tax and an expansion of the earned income tax credit and the college tuition tax credit, measures that Salon's Steve Kornacki emphasizes are "stimulative in nature.".
Now it's WWND. What Will Nancy (Pelosi) Do? The House Democratic leader is still the most powerful person in the House of Representatives for a few more weeks - could we see a confrontation between her and Barack Obama over this issue? Reportedly Vice President Dick Cheney will address some Democrats today to calm them down, but there's real anger in D.C. and across the country amongst the liberal base, and that could be just another headache for a president who has a slew of challenges to contend with.